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The Arrival of a Train (1896)

L'arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat (original title)
A group of people are standing in a straight line along the platform of a railway station, waiting for a train, which is seen coming at some distance. When the train stops at the platform, ... See full summary »
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Storyline

A group of people are standing in a straight line along the platform of a railway station, waiting for a train, which is seen coming at some distance. When the train stops at the platform, the line dissolves. The doors of the railway-cars open, and people on the platform help passengers to get off. Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

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Documentary | Short

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Release Date:

25 January 1896 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Arrival of a Train  »

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1.31 : 1
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Trivia

Since this was the first motion picture some people had ever seen, reportedly audience members in the front row sometimes attempted to jump out the way of the train, as they thought it was going to hit them. See more »

Connections

Featured in Pribytie poezda (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Remarkable; unforgettable; the definitive image of 1890s cinema
13 June 2007 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

There doesn't seem to be anything particularly exciting about an approaching steam locomotive, but somehow this image has stuck, the first iconic scene in cinematic history. Produced by pioneering French filmmakers Auguste and Louis Lumière, 'L' Arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat / Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat' was filmed at La Ciotat, Bouches-du-Rhône, France on December 28, 1895 and first screened to a paying audience on January 6, 1896. The 50-second long film, like most other Lumière shorts, successfully captures a brief snippet of everyday life, chronicling the gradual approach of the train, its slow to a halt, and the disembarkment of its passengers.

For many years, there has been an enduring myth than, upon the first screening of the film, the audience was so overwhelmed by the image of the train bearing down upon them that they fled the room in terror. This has been shown to be something of an embellishment, and, though the film would undoubtedly have astounded and mesmerised audiences, there was never any real mass panic. French scientist Henri de Parville, who attended an early screening, is said to have written: "The animated photographs are small marvels. ...All is incredibly real. What a power of illusion! ...The streetcars, the carriages are moving towards the audience. A carriage was galloping in our direction. One of my neighbors was so much captivated that she sprung to her feet... and waited until the car disappeared before she sat down again." This, I think, adequately sums up how remarkable the film must have seemed back in 1896.

Auguste and Louis Lumière obviously recognised the power of illusion offered by their Cinématographe. In order to maximise the shock value of the approaching train, they have mounted the camera as close as possible to the edge of the platform, so that the audience feels as if they are almost standing right in the locomotive's path. The people departing from the train are just normal citizens going about their day (several Lumière relatives, however, can be spied on the platform), enhancing the realism of the short. Cinema does not get much more memorable than this.


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